4K Blu-ray Review: Braveheart (25th Anniversary SteelBook)

It’s been a quarter of a century since Braveheart hit theaters and went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and to commemorate this anniversary Paramount Pictures has released a beautiful SteelBook that looks fantastic on its own, while also matching up nicely to the 20th anniversary Gladiator SteelBook that was just released as well. Since the SteelBook will be one of the big reasons fans may pick this film up let’s break down the SteelBook art now.

Much like Gladiator’s case, which saw Russell Crow’s Maximus take center stage, Braveheart’s SteelBook shines the spotlight on Mel Gibson and his portrayal of Scottish hero, William Wallace. Behind Wallace are his army of Scots, really capturing the feel of this epic film. On the back of the case we have Wallace’s sword sticking out of the battlefield, with a row of soldiers and horses standing off in the distance; a juxtaposition to the front image, giving off the feeling of the calm before the storm, or possibly standing your ground even when the odds are against you. Either way you look at it, it’s a beautiful visual and both sides capture the overall vibe of the film perfectly.

When you open it up you get an awesome image of the two sides at war, while they’ve also put the film’s most famous line, and Wallace’s battle cry, “They may take away our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom” split up across both sides of the case, up above the raging battle below. Adding the quote is a really nice touch, as they could’ve gone the same route as Gladiator and done a closer shot of the battle; however, the fight for freedom is so important to the movie that having it here was a smart move from a visually appealing standpoint.

Since 25 years have passed since Braveheart’s release it’s quite possible that there are a lot of people in the younger generation who have yet to see it, and to them I recommend picking this or the previous 4K non-SteelBook release up for the best visual representation of the film. The 4K delivers 2160p HEVC, Dolby Vision and HDR10 visuals which are just gorgeous. This film is full of shots of the Scottish landscape, and the battle scenes are gritty, bloody and in your face, so getting to enjoy a film that came out in the mid-90s in such beautiful fashion really is a treat.

For those who don’t know, Braveheart tells the story of William Wallace and how he lead the Scottish rebellion against the evil King Edward “Longshanks,” who had invaded and conquered Scotland. The film holds up incredibly well, and it’s abundantly clear why it won a few of the major Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography, as Gibson really showcased his directing talents here (which you’ll get a better look at if you delve into the special features,) and the cinematography is just magnificent.

There are a lot of liberties taken in the story, though they don’t ever really try to hide it and even have a feature talking about the more historically accurate side of Wallace. William Wallace became a legend, and with that legend came stories that have grown throughout the years, and the movie never looked to pull fact from fiction to tell this tale, instead choosing to tell the most interesting overall story from a purely entertainment perspective. So for those looking for historical accurate movie, well, you best just skip this one and look elsewhere. Now for those who are looking for an epic film full of vengeance, vicious battles that don’t hold back when it comes to violence and also gives a pretty loose idea of what happened back in in the late 1200s between Scotland and England, then Braveheart is for you.

I did delve into this a bit in the review itself, but I’ll mention it again: the 4K release that Paramount has delivered here (and in its previous release) is the best version of Braveheart out there for home viewing. The Blu-ray is also fantastic, so if you haven’t upgraded to 4K just yet but are interested in this 25th Anniversary SteelBook, don’t be afraid to pick this up as you do get the Blu-ray release as well. That way when you inevitably do upgrade you’ll have the best version ready to go.

On the audio front I have to say that I love James Horner’s score for this film. It’s filled with such passion, and truly immerses you into the Scottish culture and the tone the film is going for at any particular time. It’s been given the Dolby Atmos treatment and sounds superb. The film also won an Academy Award for sound mixing, which is clear during the battle sequences, as everything just sounds wonderful, pitting you right in the action without fear of being beheaded or struck with an arrow.

Special Features:

The 4K disc has an Audio Commentary by Mel Gibson, which is the person you’d want to hear from if you want to learn more about the filmmaking side of Braveheart. The rest of the extras are found on the Blu-ray side of things, as they’re transferred over from the previous release. Some of the major ones included are:

Braveheart Timelines — Here we have three sections, one of which focuses on the more factual history of William Wallace, another looks at the more fictional side of things that the film focuses on, and finally we have a production timeline that breaks down what it took to make the film happen and get it to the screen.

Battlefields of the Scottish Rebellion — This is an interesting interactive map that breaks down the four key moments that took place throughout Wallace’s life on the battlefield. It allows viewers to learn more about particular battles, as well as view computer-generated scenes and animations along the way.

Braveheart: A Look Back — This is the biggest feature on the disc that comes in at just over an hour in length and is broken up into three parts. First we have A Company of Equals, which sees the cast and crew talk about the story, why it was an important tale to tell, and just how massive an undertaking the entire process was on set. Next up we have The Sound of Laughter, which showcases some of the fun moments had on set, as well as looking at Gibson and his work behind the camera. Lastly we have The Measure of a Film, which looks at the shooting of the battles, the intensity and emotion that went along with such a story, the post-production/editing process, and just how well the film has stood the test of time and why.

Smithfield: Medieval Killing Fields — This feature comes in at just over 25-minutes in length and focuses on the history of the town and what it looks like today — or at least a the time of this filming!

Tales of William Wallace — This is a 30-minute feature that breaks down the life of William Wallace and tries to explain what’s true about the legend, and what may just be myths passed down throughout the years.

A Writer’s Journey — This one comes in at just over 21-minutes in length and focuses on writer Randall Wallace, how he came up with the way he wanted to write the script, as well as collaborating with Gibson, amongst other things. Like all of the above, another really interesting watch for those who want to learn more about the film and filmmaking process.

Audio Commentary — The Mel Gibson commentary is also found on the Blu-ray, so again, if you’ve yet to upgrade you can still take a listen to that here as well.

Paramount Pictures Presents Braveheart. Directed by: Mel Gibson. Written by: Randall Wallace. Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan, Catherine McCormack, Angus Macfadyen, Brendan Gleeson. Running time: 178 Minutes. Rating: 18A. Released on Blu-ray: June 16, 2020.

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